One fantastic day, I discovered this trick that changed the way our family cleans. It is this one simple thing, this new cleaning routine, that gave me back my sanity. After my kids are in bed, I no longer spend the next hour picking up their stuff off the floor, vacuuming, and doing dishes. I can spend quality time with them every night in those crucial moments before bed, where we read and pray together. This time is precious in our house, even now that they are in Jr. High. And I can fall asleep without the anxiety of dishes in the sink.
Seriously… These ten minutes were life-changing
Going to bed with dishes in the sink, Nerf guns and ammo on the floor, and a pile of clean clothes that need to be folded is the absolute worst! I don’t sleep well. The anxiety of all that needs to be done is constantly tormenting me. I have this weird, angry feeling inside. The aggravation comes from a feeling of not measuring up to the standards that I have put on myself… I’m embarrassed that my house is so messy… disappointed with the fact that I’m not a better homemaker… frustrated that I have to do everything myself… and I’m sad that this actually affects my relationship with my husband and my kids.
I wish someone would have told me this 13 years ago. Too many years have been spent being overwhelmed and feeling like a total failure as a homemaker. My desire was to be a “domestic goddess,” like all those moms I follow on Instagram. I tried to do it all myself, but it wasn’t natural for me… and it was exhausting! Adulting doesn’t always come instinctively.
My husband is a wonderful man and would do anything I asked of him, but I didn’t particularly enjoy asking him. I just wanted him to do more to help out around the house without me having to say anything.
That wasn’t fair to him because I was getting upset at him for not doing things that I never told him I wanted him to do. He isn’t a mind reader! There were times that I would literally curl up in a fetal position on the floor and cry… and he had no idea why.
I feel so dumb
You guys, I feel so dumb that it took me this long to figure this out.
I know what you are thinking… ” You must have stumbled upon some magic to give you that kind of freedom. Please! Just tell me what it is already!
Well, here it is… I just started making everyone pick up all their crap!
Well… it wasn’t exactly that easy. When I told my kids to pick up their stuff, I was mostly met with whining and complaining. Or… they would start doing what I asked and then get distracted and somehow create more messes.
Then… we turned our cleaning routine into the 10-minute challenge and everything changed.
The Ten-Minute Challenge
Here are 4 steps we took to make this happen:
1. Share expectations and make a plan
The first thing I did was share my expectations with everyone involved. Consequently, I always forget this part, and it is imperative. Most of my disappointments in life stem from me not letting anyone know what I am thinking or expecting. For some reason, I assume that people should know what I want… and that is SO SILLY! How can they know if I don’t tell them?
First, I shared my frustrations about our cleaning routine, or lack thereof, with my husband. Unsurprisingly, he was incredibly supportive since he had no idea that any of this was even an issue and generally enjoys solving problems. Together we mapped out the best way to go about getting things done. My husband is a pro at making things into a game and delegating different areas to the boys. (We need to have our kids work in separate areas of the house so that there is less conflict. It’s best to foresee problems and solve them before they happen.) We explained the plan to them, and they were on board. It was easy to convince them because we were only asking for 10 minutes and not an entire Saturday.
We also created a 10-minute cleanup checklist to help us map out what we are attempting to do. You can download it here. << 10-minute cleanup checklist>>
2. Set a timer to stay motivated
We began setting a timer each night for 10 minutes before we start our bedtime routine. I use the timer on the microwave, and all of us run around the house cleaning as much as we can in 10 minutes. If my kids were younger, I would use a timer like this one to show how much time is left visually. When the timer goes off, we are done. As long as we were all pitching in… everything is accomplished quickly, and we stop when the timer goes off.
The boys usually start by picking up their messes in the living room and then move to their designated area… typically, the bedroom or bathroom. I work in the kitchen, making sure countertops are wiped down, and all dishes have been put away. Loren usually tries to keep the boys on task and finds things to do near them.
Below is an example of our 10 minute clean up. Even though the video only shows one small room… it’s important to note that the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom were all looking beautiful at the end of the ten minutes.
Regularly, it gets done so quickly that the floor gets vacuumed and the bathroom gets cleaned. It is amazing. The best part is that we are working together, and they know that it only goes for 10 minutes. We can do anything for 10 minutes, right?
They are learning new skills
Because there are 4 of us, sometimes stuff gets picked up so quickly that they can’t believe that we still have 5 minutes on the clock. In fact, that is what happened today. These are my favorite times. I love it when they get creative and start wiping down walls and doorknobs, washing windows, and cleaning baseboards. The more time I have spent teaching them HOW to do things, the more they think to do them. Time invested is starting to pay off. Imagine how much we could get done if I had a couple more kids!?
Now I don’t want anyone to think that my kids never complain about this. We have our share of whining and bad moods. They are in Jr. High, for Pete’s sake. These boys are now finding their voices, becoming more independent, and forming strong opinions about things.
The chores, however, are becoming much easier for them with practice. This new routine is freeing up time for us to learn about all of those interests and opinions. I have missed out on so much by allowing a messy house to dictate my emotional state.
***Bonus 5-minute pick up: a morning cleaning routine
***We also started setting a 5-minute routine with a timer before we left for school in the morning. That routine ended abruptly when we got quarantined. I will say that on the days I would walk in the house after work and not find breakfast still on the table, those were great days.
One of my children continually leaves the cereal box, milk carton, and bowl out after he makes himself breakfast in the morning. (Yes, my kids eat a lot of cereal). We call this the “Trifecta” and began charging him $.25 each time he left it out. I think he’s paid about $5.00 since we have been in quarantine! The 5-minute morning routine challenge helped with the trifecta for sure and saved him his allowance!
3. Be consistent in our cleaning routine
Consistency has been the biggest obstacle in creating good cleaning habits for my family. When I am exhausted and overwhelmed, I tend to want to go to bed and not hold my kids accountable. It feels like so much work to remind everyone of the plan and make it happen. If I give up and go to bed, I wake up in a bad mood. At the start of the day, my kids already have a grumpy mom. This isn’t good for any of us. The more consistent we are, the easier it gets. Once it becomes a habit, I no longer have to remind and reteach my kids constantly. When we fall into old habits, it’s like starting over. It is worth it to make these 10 minutes a part of the everyday cleaning routine.
4. Allow for family fun to get the cleaning done
Silliness is definitely in our family genes. As a result, the best memories in our house usually involve tons of laughter. Sometimes we turn on music and dance while we clean, and other times we run around crazily making fart noises. (I’m in a house of boys). I had to adjust my expectations to allow for this goofy fun.
Music can help make the cleaning experience more enjoyable. We take turns picking the songs because my kids like opposite things, and I can only listen to “Fishy on Me” so many times before I start to lose my mind. I think a playlist that lasts 10 minutes might be a solution to that problem. Consequently, we will know how much time is left by which song is playing. Now I need to get everyone to agree.
It’s only ten minutes
The important thing is it’s only 10 minutes! If we stick with it, it is better for everyone. Our house is more organized, I feel at peace, we have more quality time as a family, and my kids are now becoming responsible humans. They will directly contribute to society instead of leaving their stuff all over the place. It’s a win-win-win-win.
Well, there you have it. The trick that brought peace to my home and restored my sanity! If you already practice a cleaning routine like this, I would love some tips. If you are like me and feel domestically challenged and overwhelmed, try this out and leave a comment to let me know how it goes. Hopefully, it can bring you some peace as well.
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If you missed it above, you can get the 10-Minute Cleanup Checklist here: <<< click here>>>